tagSci-Fi & FantasyMinx Ep. 01: Interstellar Bounty Hunter

Minx Ep. 01: Interstellar Bounty Hunter

bynicecthulhu©

Episode I: Interstellar Bounty Hunter

Thank you to searchingforperfection and CatBown for their hard work in editing this story. I appreciate all comments, votes and feedback.

I

She made sure to shyly avert her gaze when her eyes met his from across the strip club.

Waldo had seen her as soon as he entered the main room, with its dim lighting and blaring, thumping music. She was standing between the women's changing room and some stairs that led up to the main stage. Another anxious girl stood immediately behind her and a bouncer loomed over any patrons who stumbled too near.

Waldo looked about the room and spied two gorgeous, large-breasted women on stage, each wrapped around a pole and with nothing wrapped around them. They were typical peelers, with a bruise here and there, forced smiles and eyes that revealed either addictions or complete boredom with their job. A few waitresses, comparatively modestly dressed, patrolled the tables and dodged groping hands while they filled drink orders. Waldo spotted a half dozen bouncers along the walls, theirs eyes searching for any behaviour deemed dangerous for one of the girls or not-yet-paid-for.

His attention was drawn back to the first woman he had noticed, and the one behind her. They both wore semi-transparent, plastic lingerie, which still left some mystery as to what they were going to show on stage. They also both seemed strangely nervous and then he remembered the sign outside the front door: 'Free Tryouts Tonight Ladies! A Chance to Earn Some Easy Credits!' He suspected that the two waiting their turn by the stage were here to earn those easy credits. Fingering the credits in his pocket, he wondered exactly what they would buy him if he were to try to make a deal with either one of those girls. Then he smiled and wondered if he had enough to make an offer to both girls. Waldo was quite willing to take advantage of a woman in a desperate situation.

He took an empty seat in front of center stage, scowling at the man who had been about to sit there. Keeping an eye on the current dancers, he ordered a drink from a passing waitress. Waldo kept an eye on the entrance as well, just in case someone he should be wary of walked in. He'd been to this bar every night for the last four days. It had been a mistake to get into this routine, but he'd been on the run for so long and he'd had no fun at all since that socialite's family had decided to send bounty hunters after him.

Once again, Waldo silently cursed the universe over his misfortune. All he had done was kidnap the young woman. She was moderately famous and her family was excessively wealthy. Add to that her habits of partying, alcohol indulgence and drug usage and she was a prime target for someone like him. It was her own fault, he thought with a snarl. Sure the family had paid up, but Waldo had also been contacted by an agent from Rixlox who had offered him a near fortune for this celebrity. They were always on the lookout for sex slaves and were willing to pay top dollar for untrained girls.

Waldo slammed his drink down on the stage. The stupid Rixlox ship had been captured, the woman returned to her family and he had been blamed for what had almost happened to her. Her family had contacted the Bounty Hunter's Guild and Waldo had been on the run for the last seven months.

As their music ended one of the dancers sauntered over to him, somehow sensing he had some credits to spend.

"Fuck off," he told her and he took another drink. He was waiting for the frightened girl by the stairs to come up on stage; she didn't look as well used and Waldo preferred his playthings to be young and easily surprised.

Waldo took another look at the entrance and then scanned the crowd. One of the bounty hunters had admitted that there were three in total, right before Waldo strangled him. The crook had spotted one of the remaining hunters on Mars. He was an ox of a man, but he had been slow and Waldo had eluded him easily. He hadn't seen the other hunter and figured that the man had never picked up his trail. He was almost free now, he congratulated himself, all he had to do was reach Terra and he could lose himself in the billions crammed onto that tiny planet. That was why he had come to this station, despite the fact that the Bounty Hunter's Guild was headquartered here. Terra was one short drop down the gravity well.

The bouncer gently urged the first girl up the stairs. As she reached the stage, she seemed to become more confident. A few lewd calls from the various patrons didn't seem to distract her at all.

The lights began flashing and soft music, with a very steady and deep beat, began playing throughout the club. The girl walked slowly to center stage and suggestively wrapped her hands around the pole. She had a slim build and smooth, firm legs fully revealed by her short and semi-transparent negligee. Her breasts strained against her tight top and looked firm to all admiring eyes. She had long brown hair, green sparkling eyes, full red lips and a pert nose. She wore high heels, but was apparently not used to them as she kicked them off before starting to dance.

The girl walked around the edge of the stage, eying all the men in the front row. Then she came back to stand right in front of Waldo. He waved a few credits at her to ensure she didn't move away and her fear seemed to evaporate as she stared at Waldo's offering. The fact that she was so easily bought brought a smile to his face.

She shifted her hips from side to side in time with the beat while she brought her hands up from her hips, across her stomach and then over her breasts, after briefly squeezing them together. Her hands rose to her throat and then into her curls and were lost from sight. She looked straight down into Waldo's eyes, opened her lips and then her tongue seductively licked those same red lips.

Waldo was mesmerized, staring at that face. He barely heard the sudden shouts and the cessation of the music. All thoughts of keeping a watch for his pursuers vanished from his lust-filled mind. He somehow knew that this girl was only here for him as their eyes locked.

His gaze slowly travelled down from her face, until he noticed the girl was pointing a laser pistol at his chest and holding a bounty hunter's badge up for everyone to see.

"Waldo Smitts," she said calmly, "you're coming with me."

II

"What else have you got? There must be another job," complained that same girl to an official at the Guild later that day. After dropping Waldo off at the Guild holding cells and receiving her payment, she had quickly headed for her assigned room and showered thoroughly, as that pole in the strip club had been slick. Then she changed into the standard white Guild uniform, ate and headed to the Assignments Office to find what new work was available. Waldo's bounty had been big, but it had barely finished paying off what she owed on Ship and there hadn't been anything extra for the upgrades she had wanted. Ship's behaviour was unusual at times.

The sixty year old man behind the desk scratched the stump of his left arm thoughtfully. "Look, Minx, I've got nothing suitable for you. You know that the more crowded and civilized planets have a glut of hunters. It's safer to hunt your prey there or on a nice space station like this one. The crooks know this too and rarely come to these locales anymore. So there's rarely work. There were three of you out hunting Waldo!"

"You must have something for me," she pleaded. With a body like hers she wouldn't starve, but the most likely work she could get would be stripping, prostitution or porn. She had been a librarian, but she didn't think she could go back to that now.

"Oh, I've got lots of jobs, but no one willing to take them. They're too damn dangerous." His eyes shifted down to her breasts and then back to her face. She knew that he meant the jobs were too damn dangerous for a woman.

"Tell me about them and let me decide."

"Okay. Okay," he surrendered. "The first one is on Rixlox." Her eyebrows went up. "We've actually got about a dozen job requests for that planet. Various young women taken there by Rixlox agents and their families are willing to pay us huge fees to get them back or, if they are 'too damaged', kill the bastards responsible. You know the dangers."

Indeed, she did know the dangers. Every citizen of Rixlox carried an identification chip in their brain that identified them either as an owner or as owned and it was very difficult to mimic. Strangers were not allowed to visit Rixlox. Anyone breaking the law on Rixlox became subject to lifelong punishment. For a man it meant torture for public amusement or the body banks. For a woman it meant torture for public amusement, the body banks or enslavement and possible torture for private amusement. She was not going to Rixlox!

"What else have you got?" she asked with a sinking feeling in her stomach

"Hrmph! A bounty hunter is needed to find one Cyros Cuthbert on the planet Rigel VI." He looked at her questioningly.

"That might be the one. What can you tell me about Rigel VI?" She leaned forward, with her hands on his desk.

"Well, it's a swamp planet with only three major cities. There's a fairly big and organized criminal element there. Cuthbert is believed to have gone off into the swamps to avoid the local 'officials'. Rigel VI is an old world. The life there's adapted to almost every possibility. They have a few types of deadly insects and one type of water worm that anaesthetizes its victim while it bites an opening into the flesh. They then lay their eggs inside the living victim. The eggs hatch within twenty-four hours and the larvae begin burrowing deeper and deeper. They enter a symbiotic relationship with the host and grow and grow. When they reach maturity, they begin eating the host from the inside." He looked at the screen he held. "Plus quite a variety of carnivorous plants, some large enough to devour humans. Oh, and sixteen fatal diseases which currently have no cure. When you leave Rigel VI you have to spend two weeks in quarantine to make sure you're not carrying anything out with you."

Minx felt a little ill. "That one's not for me."

"The rest are pretty much the same, sweetheart." He placed his hands on the table and gave her a paternal look. "Maybe you're just not cut out for this line of work?"

"I don't like my other options." He nodded in response, again glancing at her breasts.

"Go have a drink in the bar. Rest for a few days. Maybe go down to Earth and visit some of the pleasure domes. They have perversions to fit anyone's tastes."

"Yeah, maybe. Let me know if a job comes up."

"Why in Hell would I bump you to the top of my list, Minx?"

She left his office, disappointed and pondering the wisdom of her switch in careers from librarian to bounty hunter. She fit in well to both jobs, surprising many of her fellow hunters. She had only been trailing crooks for a few years, but she was resolved that she was not going back to being a boring librarian. Not after the exciting things she'd seen and done recently.

She didn't remember reaching the Guild bar or finding an empty table. She ordered a scotch from the robot bartender and the thing tried to start up a conversation with her. Damn artificial personalities, she silently swore. She shooed the mechanical man back to his bar and then wondered how her life had gone so wrong.

The robot bartender asked her a second time, "Did you want another drink miss?" She nodded her head and then looked down at the single empty glass on her table. She looked at the digital clock in the table.

"An hour and I've only had one drink! I must be upset." She looked about her and saw most of the other tables were occupied, many by friendless hunters sitting alone. Everyone's in a funk, she thought. Then she heard laughter behind her. Minx glanced quickly at who was there and saw three older hunters. One appeared to be buying drinks for the others and all were in a celebratory mood.

"I tell you lads, going to the fringe was the best thing I ever did. There are tonnes of bounties available and few hunters. You pick a planet and you're probably the only bounty hunter there. Hell, you pick any group of systems and you're probably the only hunter there. I'm here for a year to throw away my earnings and then I'm back out making more money. And that's not the best of it."

"What is?" asked one of his friends.

"While these systems are so far out we have no back-up, it also means there are practically no controls. You can pretty much do whatever you want to get your bounty. Absolute freedom," he said with a nasty smile.

That's what I want, thought Minx. She dropped some credits into the slot on the table, stood and strode out of the bar. Going directly to the Assignment Officer's office, she was admitted reluctantly and the older man offered her a seat again.

"What can I do for you, Minxamallia Lazer?" He took a sip of his coffee.

"I want a bounty out on the fringe of the galaxy," she said as she made herself comfortable.

He spit out his mouthful of coffee. "God damn! Why are you cracking jokes like that when I've got a mouthful of coffee? Get the Hell out of here!"

"I'm serious."

The official stood up and patted his pants with some napkins. "This is going to stain..."

"Look, are you going to refuse me a bounty?"

He sat down again and stared at the beautiful young woman, searching for any signs that she was joking. "No, but you will listen to me young lady." He pointed a finger at her face. "I'd rather see you peeling at the club where you picked up Waldo or turning tricks than..."

"I'm sure you would," she interrupted.

"God damn it! I'm trying to help you. You don't have any idea what it's like out there. We have damn few specifications on worlds out at the fringe and bounty hunters are usually the first ones to bring us back a description. At least the ones that come back do. Those worlds I described to you earlier could be duplicated out there or it could be a hundred times worse. God damn! I've heard rumours there's still a Galactic Empire Navy out there somewhere. You can imagine what they would do to you if they got their hands on you."

"Give me a bounty." She was quite smug that she had managed to conceal her shiver at his mention of the Empire.

The official glared at her. He was torn by his sense of duty to a junior member and by his immediate anger at her. "Fine." He typed something into his screen and his desk spit out a small ruby cube. He tossed it carelessly in her direction. "Now get to your ship and plug this in and don't blame me if you end up on some alien monster's dinner table."

III

Minx walked up to Ship carrying her few belongings in a large shoulder bag. "Ship?"

"Identify yourself or be destroyed," said a sultry, female voice. Some strange armament that Minx had never seen before popped out of a hidden panel in the side of Ship and pointed directly at her.

"Minxamallia Lazer. Bounty hunter, 6th Class. Now let me in you damned paranoid bat!" Ship did indeed look something like a giant, white bat. Minx had asked about the design when she had bought Ship and been told that it was a custom job that the owner had not completed payment on. "I thought I told you to relax when you were in a Guild hangar."

"A girl can't be too careful. I've got my reputation to think of," replied Ship.

Minx rolled her eyes. She had come to suspect that the personality on Ship was a custom job, as well.

"Minx, I'm glad to see you. It's been soooo boring here. These other Ships don't like games at all." Ship willed a door open and Minx stepped inside, tossing her bag to an empty corner and then sat in her pilot's chair. She pushed the ruby cube into the interface slot designed for it and waited.

"What was that gun you pointed at me?"

"Well...that was the waste outflow from the bathroom, boss."

Minx sighed. "What about the infocube, Ship? I know you only need a second to absorb all the information. What's our mission?"

"It's a long trip. We'd better start out right away."

"Okay, you take care of the flying and tell me what you can about our mission." Minx opaqued the cockpit windows and then sat back. Ship was gentle and her flying was graceful. On a casual takeoff like this, the bounty hunter rarely had any sense of movement unless the windows were transparent.

"We're looking for one Frag Thorn. You can see him on the screen in front of you."

Minx scowled. The man was shaved partially bald, had a scar across one eye and was missing two teeth. "He's uglier than most. Are you sure he's human?"

"He robbed a bank across the galaxy of three million credits in precious metals, and murdered four bankers. He fled to a planet called Anima. Another hunter tracked him to that world and then disappeared. The only information I have on the planet is that it was populated by a semi-human race that lacks even stone-age technologies like electricity and gunpowder. We are to apprehend him and return him to a Guild base. He is considered very dangerous and the planet is considered a high-risk planet. We'll have no back-up."

"How'll we track him?"

"Lucky for us, Anima's location is known with a reasonable degree of certainty. As for his location on the planet, much of the booty he stole was marked with an unusual and harmless type of radiation. We'll be able to pinpoint his location on the planet quite easily. He probably doesn't even know there's a bounty hunter and her valiant Ship on his trail."

"But he will have guessed it, Ship, especially if he encountered the first hunter. And banks don't let that much money walk out the door without a fight. How long until we get to Anima?"

"Eight months at maximum speed. There aren't enough supplies on board so you'll have to use the couch," Ship reminded her owner.

Minx didn't mind hibernation, as she sometimes had the most intriguing dreams, even though all the experts said you weren't supposed to dream while in that state. "Get it ready for me."

"I'll be bored while you're sleeping," said Ship sadly.

IV

"Wake up, you little sleepy head," called Ship.

Minx awoke from a dream where she was living in a cloud city with beautiful angels who had welcomed her as one of their own. A very bad hibernation headache struck her like a steel rod and she put a hand to her head to hold her skull still. Most people didn't get them and she had never determined why she did, every single time. "Ooohhhhh. Where are we?"

"You had alcohol immediately before going through the long sleep, didn't you?"

"Yes, mother. Give me some medicine." As she lay still on the couch an injection tube disengaged itself from the side, brushed her arm and returned to its previous position. "That feels better already, Ship."

"We're orbiting Anima, boss. I have located Frag Thorn. I've also researched the indigenous intelligent life and have several possible disguises for you."

"Show me the planet." Minx sat up and stretched with a loud yawn. She slowly eased herself to her feet, staggered to the cockpit and then slumped down in the pilot's chair.

A yellow-white dust-bowl of a planet appeared on the screen in front of her. From the name, Minx had expected a more colourful world. With all the stolen credits, why had Frag hidden himself here, she wondered? Was he so afraid of being caught that he'd willingly flee to the edge of the galaxy?

"Temperatures range from eighty Celsius at the equator to minus ten Celsius at either pole. Night-time temperatures are up to ten or twenty degrees cooler, depending on your elevation. The planet is very dry, although water is buried less than fifty meters down in most habitable areas. There are small settlements in the habitable areas surrounded by farmlands. There are few forested areas or jungles. One day lasts about twenty hours, while one year lasts about three hundred days. The primary is a blue giant and appears as a tiny disk in the sky. There are no moons, but there is one artificial satellite. It's very old and barely functioning. It won't talk to me unless I supply the correct Galactic Empire code."

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